Tag Archives: tips

3 Things Friday

3 Things Friday… or alternate title: I have 3 things I keep forgetting to tell you.  And it happens to be Friday.  Let’s roll. Or whatever.

3 things friday

Dill is amazing in bouquets.

How did I learn this?  I bought a $10 arrangement at the farmers market last week (a “too many flowers” sale was underway), and it wasn’t until we got home that I realized it was full of the most lovely, fragrant dill.  The yellow flowers look a lot like Queen Anne’s lace.  I suppose I’ve never been successful enough in my herb gardening to grow dill to the point of it flowering (I either eat it… or it dies), so I snipped a few stems at my parents’ house this afternoon and plan to add it to a vase of hydrangeas later today.  Or maybe I’ll just keep smelling it.  Regardless, you might consider adding some fresh herbs (mint, basil or rosemary, perhaps) to your next bouquet.

Major PSA for nature-loving seniors (+/or those who know one).

The National Parks Service Senior Passes (which gives people over the age of 62 lifetime access to parks and public land) will increase in price on August 28, 2017 from $10 to $80.  That’s $70 you could be spending on nature guides or Grand Canyon tee shirts or bug repellent or whatever.  Most sites allow Senior Pass holders to bring 3 friends along (regardless of their ages, and children under 16 are always free)… so maybe, call your senior friends.  Tell them to get their passes now.  And then ask them to take you to Yellowstone.  Find all the details here for purchasing your “America the Beautiful” Senior Pass online here.  Or click here to find a list of parks where you can purchase your passes in person (if you’re on Cape, hit up the National Seashore in Welfleet or Provincetown).  And if you miss the deadline, maybe consider buying a pass anyway.  

What does it say about me that one of my most pressing issues is whether or not older more experienced people are getting deals on parks?  I don’t know, but I’m pretty okay with it.

Make this list before you travel.

Summer is still in full swing in New England (I will purposely smash my shopping cart into your display of Halloween decorations.  Consider yourself warned, stores.), and if I’ve learned anything over the past two months by the beach, it’s that it pays to know where the closest urgent care center is.  How’s that for some mama drama on a Friday?  

In all seriousness, though, when we bought our Cape house, Nick and I made a list of the closest urgent care, ER, and vet office.  I saved all three in my Waze app like the true Type A Worrier that I am.  Ideally, you’ll never need to visit these places, but in the event you do… save yourself some time (and a tiny bit of stress) by knowing where to go and how to get there.  And in case anyone’s keeping score, all of the male members of our family (including Clark) have had some sort of medical emergency this summer.  Survival of the fittest… just kidding… kind of.  #GIRLPOWER

Also On Tap for Today:

Got a PSA of your own to share?

 

 

 

Guard your spirit.

“Guard your spirit” is something I used to jokingly say to my dog, covering his eyes if there was violence on the evening news.  I would tell Nick that our little Frenchie was very sensitive and needed to be protected from things like swear words and fighting and pizzas that have mini hotdogs where the crust should be (I still can’t believe that’s a thing.  And we wonder why people think Americans are not okay.).

guard your spirit clark

My (spirit) guard dog

I think I’ve always been a somewhat sensitive person.  But I’ve gotten considerably more sensitive with age.  And ever more so as a mother.  I chalk some of this up to the fact that I haven’t slept since May of 2012, but I sort believe that the older we get, the more ourselves we become.  (Please don’t check my grammar on that last sentence.  We’ll both be disappointed.)  

I used to be able to watch six documentaries on serial killers in a row without needing to booby trap my own house.  I could listen to the baddest, most inappropriate music on the dial without flinching.  I could (for the most part– we all have our limits) hang with negative, bossy, rude people and not turn too awful myself.  And I could watch the evening news without covering Clark’s eyes, and plotting to lock everyone that I love in a closet (with plenty of snacks and a good ventilation system, obvi) so that nothing bad could ever happen to them.  Besides the whole being locked in a closet thing.  Speaking of which, add claustrophobia to my growing list of issues sensitivities.  

So these days, when I say Guard your spirit (most often to myself), I actually mean it.  And what I mean is this:  I am the person who I am.  And that person is part-sponge.  And that’s okay.  And I can do things to avoid becoming wrung out or water logged.  Here are a few of those things (I’m pretty sure they work for all types of people).

GUARD YOUR SPIRIT

Be picky in the best way possible

guard your spirit plants

My best friends are self-sufficient plants.

  • Choose to spend time with people who bring out the best in you.  People who are kind, motivating, and encouraging.  (And be that sort of person for other people.)
  • Take advantage when opportunities present themselves.  For me, this means embracing even a tiny bit of alone time. There are days when I sort of want to yell, “No one talk to me, no one touch me, no one look at me, no one stick a Duplo in my bra, no one breathe near me!” But that would be rude.  So instead, I pretend I have to use the bathroom… and just hide in there for 3 whole minutes.  For more civilized people, this might mean prioritizing a last minute coffee date with a friend over some other obligation.
  • Be mindful of your goals and work to ensure your priorities (and like, daily behaviors) are aligned with these goals.  Don’t do things that work in opposition to these goals.  (Easier typed than done, I know.)  Your time and energy are not endless in supply.  Use ’em wisely.

Be careful about what you consume

guard your spirit waves

  • This goes for food and drink and things you put on your body (like clothes and make-up and glitter gel from the 90’s and dogs that demand to sit directly on your chest whilst you try to relax).
  • …But it’s equally important when it comes to media.  You don’t need to follow everyone and their grandmother (and let’s be serious, the grandmothers are present and accounted for on Facebook).  If what someone shares– tweets, photos, commentary, what have you– affects you negatively, unfollow.  And don’t feel guilty.  Think of it this way: our mental and emotional feeds are limited.  Don’t waste that space on pictures of cats eating steak or racist Facebook rants. Save it for waves gently crashing onto the shore.  Or whatever floats your proverbial boat.  Get it… waves… boats…. cool.
  • Know what works for you.  I don’t read fiction or watch shows or movies that contain much violence (especially if it involves violence against women or children).  This is not entertaining for me, and doesn’t make me a more informed or helpful person.  YouTube videos featuring baby pigs eating tiny cupcakes do entertain me.  Jury’s still out on whether or not they make me better informed or more helpful.  
  • Have a stash of treasured books, music, poems, artwork, movies, podcasts, drawings, pig videos, plants etc. at the ready when you need a little (or big) boost.  Some of my favorites: Mary Oliver, Hafez, Rumi, the On Being podcast, Wendell BerryParis to the Moon, Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure.

Default to kindness

  • On my worst days, I default to giving people the finger as they cut me off in the Columbia Rd. rotary.  But on my best days, I default to kindness.  It’s a habit that takes work.  I try to practice in little ways, like saying hello to strangers (but not in a creepy or unsafe way).  Or being truly patient (rather than pretending to be patient, but actually being annoyed) while people cross the street.  Or giving people the benefit of the doubt, that they’re doing their best for the moment.
  • So much of being a parent to two young children feels reactionary.  And prior to being at home with Grace and baby Nick, I worked in a very reactionary, which-fire-should-I-extinguish-first, kind of field.  I’m (very) slowly learning to react with less stress, less need to be right, less authority… and more kindness.  I think it’s sort of like when robots are re-programed so that they are, like, friendly robots instead of war robots in those war robot movies that you couldn’t pay me a trillion dollars to watch.  Just a guess.

Take care of yourself

guard your spirit salad

  • There are going to be plenty of times when we miss an opportunity to guard our spirits (like when you try to not watch the debate, but then you have to take your sick baby– he’s fine!– to the ER and all the TVs are tuned to CNN… WHY?). And there will be times when life goes sideways, in tiny or tragic ways.  And the better we’ve cared for ourselves, the better prepared we will be for those unexpected, unwelcome, unhappy or un-whatever times.
  • So take care of yourself.  Eat well.  Drink plenty of water.  And then a little more.  Sleep well (assuming that’s an option and you don’t have a tiny human yelling at you all night).  Exercise.  Pray.  Meditate.  Paint.  Hold a sleeping baby.  Hold an awake baby.  Do hula hooping in the park.  Let a dog sit on your chest for no apparent reason other than that’s what he wants to do.  

Be a nice person to yourself, and a nice person to other people.  And don’t watch recaps of the presidential debate.  Just kidding… kind of.

P.S. Happy Birthday to the best mother and grandmother we could ever hope for!

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever said to your dog?  How do you guard your spirit?

 

Today: Being responsibly indulgent.

The change in seasons, the end of Daylight Saving Time, and the final weeks of my pregnancy have combined forces to make me, basically, an exhausted grouch.  I had a routine appointment with our midwife last week (and am headed to see our ob-gyn this morning) and while everything is still going great, she told me in no uncertain terms that it’s time to slow down.  

There are going to be days when Grace doesn’t nap (payback, perhaps, for my own unwillingness to nap as a baby) or when my car needs to have its actuator replaced (and don’t worry, I called it an actuary… like the person who provides actuarial services… when speaking with the mechanic #whyme), and slowing down is just not in the cards.

But I’m quickly seeing just how many opportunities I do have to take it easy (or easier).  And while this often feels a lot like being indulgent, I also know it’s downright important.  I’d like to avoid getting sick or overly run down or more grouchy during these last few weeks, and ensure that I’m enjoying as much time as possible playing and reading and dancing and drawing with my silly, precocious, thoughtful and fun only child.  While she’s still our only child.

Ideally, I’d nap when Grace naps… but not only is her nap schedule unreliable, I can rarely sleep during the day.  I can, however, curl up on the sofa with Clark (and leave the dishes and laundry and writing projects and whatever else until later) and the baby monitor.  And that’s got to count for something.  I like to think of this hour or so (and any other chance I have to put my feet up) as being responsibly indulgent.  Here are few other ways I am indulging.

Being responsibly indulgent

Rethinking what constitutes exercise: I finished up my last outdoor bootcamp class last week and did not renew my membership or by a class pass for the new season.  While I absolutely loved the workouts and getting together with the other women and their kids, I just had the sense it was time.  One thing that has been different (and I am so grateful for this) the second time around, is that I am less inclined to compare myself to other pregnant women.  I’m much better at trusting my own instincts.

Instead of going to class, I’ve been making sure to get out of the house for walks (albeit, slow ones — and I’ve stopped wearing my fitbit, for now, because… welp, my weekly step count was getting depressing) with Grace.  We’ve made two trips to the Trailside Museum in the last week.  We’re getting plenty of fresh air, plus bonus points for improving our mental health by walking in nature.

Poodle doodles Being playful: We’ve got enough serious business to attend to as adults.  I try to draw or paint every day, which is usually very restorative, but sometimes I take even that too seriously.  I was recently inspired by one of Grace’s favorite books (it’s so, so good)– Gaston, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson— and cracked open a new sketchbook and doodled some poodles.  And Frenchies.   Happy, playful, and not at all serious.

Making “down time” appointments: This is more of a big indulgence, but sometimes we just need to treat ourselves.  The spa inside Whole Foods Market South End recently rebranded and when I saw they were offering prenatal massages, I jumped at the chance to book an appointment.  They were offering a 10% discount during the spa’s relaunch, but their prices are really reasonable… plus, you can get your grocery shopping done while you’re there.  Multi-tasking is (usually) responsible and (definitely) indulgent when a massage is involved.  The massage with LaToya was absolutely blissful and I am definitely looking forward to going back.  I wish scheduling in down time came as easily as scheduling in the necessary stuff (like last week’s dental cleaning… woof).  

Reading more, watching less:  Our midwife had all kinds of suggestions for (attempting) to get more sleep.  Unfortunately, I’ve been super uncomfortable at night and barely logged two hours the night before my appointment.  We’ve heard it all before, but when the woman you’ve entrusted with nine months of care for you and your child speaks up, you listen: limit screen time, don’t watch murder shows, don’t watch the news, don’t read anything upsetting, ease into bed and let your brain know you’re winding down.  Old habits die hard.  I sleep with my phone next to my head, the baby monitor cranked up to “can be heard on Mars” level, and you know I love a good true crime story (which is not to say that I love when crimes happen…).  But with the help of some new reading material, I’m making progress.  I’ve been watching less TV and crawling into bed as early as I can.  I’m currently working through Food Gift Love, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, and the current issue of Yoga Journal.

I could get used to this whole being indulgent thing.

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you (responsibly or irresponsibly) indulge?

Today: Beach bag upgrades.

The sign of a great summer: My beach bag is getting more use than my handbag.

Whether you’re toting around a beach bag, a pool bag, a gym bag or a something-else bag, I’ve got a few upgrades to share.  Things that make my life a little bit easier and a little less messy.  

Beach bag upgrades

Some of these beach bag upgrades are technically baby items, but don’t let that scare you off.  And if you find yourself childless yet running to Babies ‘R Us after reading this post, allow me to either 1. talk you out of it (with one child and another on the way, that place still terrifies me) 2. offer you one of the 19 about-to-expire 20% off coupons I have crammed in my wallet.

A wet bag

This should really be called “a prevent everything else in your beach bag from getting wet… bag.”  We use this one from Skip Hop, which is on the small side, but is perfect for storing my wet bathing suit, Grace’s wet bathing suit, and at least one towel.  If you’re heading to the pool or a friend’s house, wet bags are a great place to store your change of clothes (which can be swapped out for wet suits).  This also works for sweaty gym gear.

I like the mesh pocket on the outside of the Skip Hop bag — it’s perfect for stashing keys and a few dollars, or an extra swim diaper or two.  The snap handle is great too — I often attach it to the outside of our beach bag if we need a little extra room.

A giant carabiner

I sort of wonder what life was like before I discovered stroller hooks. I also sort of wonder what I would get done if I weren’t wondering about things like life before stroller hooks. This thing is essentially a giant, glorified carabiner.  It’s padded on one side, allowing you to comfortably carry a bunch of bags or items that have been clipped together.  

During the non-summer (I’m just not ready to say winter, or fall even), I use our hook most often when trying to make a single trip into our condo with the groceries and Grace.  I keep one in my car, and another in or attached to whichever bag I am carrying.  In the summer, however, it’s perfect for securing extra items to our beach bag (sand toys, towels) or keeping multiple sets of keys from getting lost.

Reusable snack bags

I use these reusable snack bags to store small items that, like keys, have a tendency to go missing in the very bottom of our beach bag– my phone, lip balm, hair elastics, band-aids, and sunblock sticks.  Again, these work for your gym bag, too.  The larger size can take the place of my wallet (because who wants to bring their entire wallet… 20% off coupons and all… to the beach?) and the smaller sizes are great for collecting shells and other treasures.  They can be easily washed or wiped clean.  

Also: I am obsessed with the patterns on these bags.  They make me want to start designing fabric.  If I had any clue how to do that.  Which I don’t.  Mostly because I am busy thinking about life before stroller hooks.

A waterproof camera

This is a bit of a splurge, but I bought a waterproof camera before our honeymoon to St. John and I’m so glad I did.  We’ve been able to capture photos from amazing snorkeling trips and swimming in tropical caves to Grace’s first swimming lessons and days spent at the Cape with our family.  In my dreams, I am the sort of person who swims under waterfalls and regularly partakes in SUP yoga in the harbor… but um, it’s perfect for my less cool, less adventurous (real) life.

We have an older version of the Nikon Coolpix Waterproof AW100 series.  It is waterproof up to 100 feet, is shockproof and has built in GPS/world map.  It seems like there are more options available (and at better prices) these days, and the new Nikons have built in wifi to easily transfer images to your smart phones.  If you’re going to invest in a camera, I highly recommend getting a waterproof camera float, too.  This can be used to carry the camera… but also lessens the chance of your camera disappearing, sinking, or sneakily bodysurfing ashore without you.  

Speaking of bodysurfing, I’ve got a wave to catch.  Toodles!

P.S. This is not a sponsored post, but this post does contain several Amazon affiliate links.  As always, I greatly appreciate your support.

Also On Tap for Today:

What are you upgrading these days?  Has anyone figured out how to make laundry do itself?

Today: My morning reading list.

If it’s morning and you’re in bed, and you’re reading this on your phone… thank you. I always appreciate your being here. But please, put the phone down.  Let’s meet back here in a few hours.

One of my worst habits?  Letting other people decide what I am going to think about in the morning.  And by other people, I mean my phone.  If you’re looking to get up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed, grab your phone as soon as you wake up and get flooded by such things as:

  • Tweets about chemicals in your favorite foods
  • An Instagram post informing you that the Frenchie you insta-stalk died of a mysterious illness (True Life: This is why I don’t follow random dogs anymore.  At least 5 dogs I followed have died in the last year.  Which is both weird and sad.  Also, I am convinced I cursed them all.)
  • Emails from your boss sent at 11:44 PM, 2:06 AM, and 4:18 AM
  • Facebook pictures of your friend’s cousin’s college roommate’s ultrasound
  • “Breaking news!” about Taylor Swift’s most recent break-up
  • Actual news about any of the upsetting things going on in our world
  • Weather reports about 900 feet of snow

It’s a tough habit to break (tougher than Diet Coke, I think… still working on that one… again), but if you can hold off on the Insties and Twitters for even a few minutes — just enough time to choose what you first consume — it can work wonders.  It can set your day on a happier, calmer, more inspired course.  I was going to type, “It will change your life!” (and I kind of believe that), but I don’t have proof.  So let’s just stick with this: Choosing what you read in the morning can have a really wonderful affect on your day.

You might already have something in mind.  A mantra, a prayer, a favorite quote, or line from a movie.  It doesn’t have to be complicated (and given that this is likely pre-coffee, perhaps it shouldn’t be complicated).  I keep a few scraps of paper in my bathroom cabinet and in a notebook in my dresser drawers– my favorite things to read are right there when I wake up, ready to keep me from the glow of my iPhone.

Looking for somewhere to start tomorrow morning?  Here are a few of my favorites.  You’ll find the full text by clicking each title.  Oh, and feel free to print any of the images and stick them to your mirror.

My morning reading list

Mary Oliver’s Five A.M. In the Pinewoods: I love everything Mary Oliver has written.  This poem, in particular, feels very meditative to me.  

A Precious Human Life, His Holiness the Dalai Lama: I’ve read this one so many times, I know it by heart (I love that expression).  It is such a beautiful way to start the day — mindful, kind and well-intentioned.

Dr. King’s “Life’s Blueprint” speech: Last spring, I heard this speech recited by a group of eighth grade students in Washington, D.C.  It was their middle school graduation ceremony and each student had memorized a few lines of the speech.  While I’d read it before, I felt like I was hearing certain parts for the first time.  It was moving and beautiful.  By the time they got to “I would say to you, don’t drop out of school,” I was crying.  The speech ends like this: “Be the best of whatever you are.”  Yes.

The Guest House by Rumi: You have to read the full poem.  It’s a perfect reminder in the morning (and in the afternoon and the evening) that we may not be able to control what or who comes into our lives, but we can choose our response and attitudes.

Okay.  It’s safe to pick up your phone again.

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you start your days?

Today: Making room for creativity.

I first started blogging in 2006 or 2007 because I was feeling a bit stuck and needed a creative outlet that didn’t require expensive supplies or an expansive workspace.  I’ve always gravitated toward writing and other forms of expression and thrive when I have projects to keep me busy, challenged and creatively engaged.  If I don’t have at least 56 projects going, I get bored.  And when I get bored, I get cranky.  And when I get cranky, welp… I’m sorry.

Lately, I’ve been craving something a little messier than writing.  If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the recent snapshots of my sketchbook.  I was hesitant to share those photos at first, but something I’m working on lately is letting go of perfection (Lord, is that ever a process.).  Like, in all facets of life.  So far, that’s not going perfectly so well.

As a student, I had a tendency to re-do and re-re-do and re-re-re-do drawings and paintings, trying to “fix” every imperfection.  A certain drawing professor (whom my sister and I grew to both love and be terrified of) once called my drawings overwrought.  I would have been upset, but I was too busy fending off that random girl in our class who kept stealing our artists tape.

Now that I’m a grown-up (and no one’s after my tape stash), I get it.  Also: I consider myself more of a casual dabbler than an artist, and I’ve decided casual dabblers can make as many mistakes as they want.

Back on topic: I need room to be creative.  Like, even more than I need Junior Mints.  Or Diet Coke.  Or clean socks (we all know I hate socks, so that was kind of a bad example).  You don’t need to be a painter or an opera singer to be creative.  And often times that creativity comes naturally. Other times you may be stuck when working on a new recipe or article or trying to problem solve at work.

Believe it or not, creativity can be learned.  (and, according to this Forbes article “creativity is far and away the most important skill needed to ‘thrive.'”)  You don’t need to wear all black, or have some sort of emo haircut, or be in the drama club (though all those things are perfectly good).  You don’t need to be a “creative type” to be creative or to benefit from creative thinking or practices.

Hopefully these ideas will help you make a little bit of room in your brains (or day, or spirit, or whatev) for creative solutions and projects.

Making room for creativity

Rethink your routine

Like most humans, I’ve caught myself making the old “I don’t have time” excuse.  Real talk: If “x” (whether that’s doodling, or running, or eating well, or calling your mum) is important, you can make time.  I promise.  It’s possible.

If you’re adding something new to your day, like a sketching routine or revisiting the piano lessons of your childhood, you may need to reconfigure your schedule a bit.  I wish there were a magic way to add an hour to your day, or a day to your week, but let’s be serious.  I am not a magician (and frankly, they creep me out).  There are only 24 hours in the day.  If you want more time, you need to either wake up earlier, or stay up later.  Or you know, skip 20 minutes of television watching (that’s not an admonishment, I’m thinking specifically of my undying devotion to Jeopardy!).

I’m a fan of that quiet time in the morning when Grace has gone back to sleep for a bit (hopefully) after eating at 4 or 5 AM and the sun is just starting to rise in Boston (…it was less lovely this winter when it was still pitch black, but hey).  If I am not dead tired, I’ll putter around the condo a bit or grab some tea on the deck and watch the sky put on a show.  For me, everything feels possible in the morning.  For others, this may be true at night.

Carve our your time and protect it.

Arm yourself

Carry a sketch pad, or journal, or violin, or wooden birdhouses and paint… or whatever with you.  That way, when inspiration (or a free five minutes between meetings) strikes, you are armed and ready.  On second thought, leave the birdhouses and paint at home.  That project got a little messy.

A note about sketchpads:  If possible, I recommend buying a few in person (like, in a real store rather than buying them online) mostly so you can get a feel (literally) for the paper quality.  Inexpensive is good, but cheap and flimsy is maybe not so good.  Check out a few different brands and be sure you like the weight and texture.  If you’re using ink or watercolors, you may want to invest in a sketchbook designed for mixed or wet media.

I have a little travel watercolor set that I just love, some pens and a few sketchpads that fit easily into my handbag (which, in truth, is gigantic – but I think they’d fit in a normal sized bag too… especially if you remove the diapers, the wipes and Sophie the giraffe).  I usually draw first, and that add color later.

Accept a challenge

It takes all of two minutes on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll find enough doodle-a-day or photo-a-day prompts to last you ’til 2033.  While participating in challenges like these can be fun in real-time, I always feel a wee bit guilty when I lose momentum and  forget to post a photo… on the second day.  Using challenge prompts for inspiration, instead, eliminates the guilt factor.  Scroll through a list the next time you find yourself asking, “What should I draw?” or “What should I write about?” or “What should I name my new harmonica jam?”

You might also consider creating your own sort of challenge.  Maybe you want to commit to writing daily, even if it’s a line or two.  Or perhaps you’d like to blog or vlog (I will forever think those two words are weird) for a month.  Deadlines and due dates and schedules can be helpful to some, but limiting to others.  As Plato and a bunch of other old people used to say, Know thyself.

Set it to shuffle mode

Yes, I am talking about music.  And yes, I am talking about other things too.  Lately I’ve been both enjoying and being overwhelmingly mortified by my digital music library.  I got bored with my playlists and started defaulting to shuffle, so my commute usually sounds something like this:

  • Weird Christmas song
  • Tupac
  • A song about (but not by) Tupac
  • Michael Jackson
  • The soundtrack to Summer Heights High
  • Ambient Reiki or yoga music
  • Sad Whitney Houston song
  • More Michael Jackson
  • Jock Jams
  • Another weird Christmas song
  • An awesome Christmas song
  • Three different versions of Raffi’s “Baby Beluga”
  • Another sad Whitney Houston song
  • A HIDDEN GEM!

Those hidden gems – the songs you haven’t heard in ages – make the embarrassment of having downloaded an entire Glee album (But seriously, when did I do that? I never liked the show.) worthwhile.  Those songs might remind you of a specific time, place or person and may help to inspire your next project.

Other ways you can embrace shuffle mode: Open the newspaper (they still exist, I assure you) and read the first article you land on.  Scroll through your phone and call the first person you see (it helps to maybe do a clean sweep of your phone and delete those randoms — you know: first name “Mary”, last name “From Yoga Class 2011”– first).  Close your eyes, point to the menu, and order (disclaimer: not safe if you have food allergies).

 Enjoy a change of scenery

I’m a big believer in the power of a simple change of scenery.  We’re lucky that we can see the ocean from one side of our condo, and skyscrapers from the other.  If you look directly out the front of our building, you’ll likely see one of my neighbors running some sort of insurance scam involving a neck brace and various other medical accessories, but that’s another story.

Regardless, one way to get creatively “unstuck” is to move.  Duh.  Take a quick walk, make a day trip to the country, visit a farm and pet some animals, enjoy a friend’s garden, spend the afternoon in the library or a bookstore reading through travel books, go for a hike, take a nap on the beach.  When you’ve got new or different things to look at, your perspective is bound to change.

Oh, and this should go without saying, but… please don’t be like,

“Elizabeth!  I took your advice!  I saw sort of a weird, dark, kind of dangerous looking alley… and, um, I thought it might inspire me… so I walked down it.  And now I am missing my wallet.  AND AN EAR!”

Very Van Gogh, but also very NOT OKAY.  Be careful and be safe.  Think with your right brain while using your left brain.  Please.

Pick up your camera.  Or don’t.

These days, quite a bit of life is experienced from behind the screens of our smart phones or tablets (do I need to mention Google Glasses?  Does anyone out there wear them?).  On one hand, I love being able to take a quick photo of something that grabs my attention or type a quick note about a book title or upcoming event.  On the other hand, I know I miss all kinds of things by being glued to my phone.  I try to use my actual camera as much as possible for this reason.  I only dig it out when I want to capture something… and I see those “somethings” because I am not preoccupied by looking at my camera.  Mostly because it’s just a camera.  It can’t text my sister a sloth pic.

Wheewwww.  This was a long one.  Think of everything you could have created and accomplished if you didn’t bother to read this post.  My apologies.

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you make room for creativity in your day?  What are you working on lately?

Today: What’s in my Pocket, 2/24/14

I thought about putting together a Weekend According to Instagram post, but ever since Grace’s early arrival (and my coinciding early maternity leave), the weekends sort of feel like regular days.  And the regular days feel sort of like weekend days.  Mostly, the last three weeks have felt like one very long (albeit, wonderful) day of nursing, diaper changing, and snuggling… peppered with a few short naps.  And several showers necessitated by being thrown up on by a tiny human.  And some quick snack breaks.  Life has been incredibly wonderful.  My Instagram feed, however, has been incredibly boring.  Which, I am hoping, is a sign that I am doing something right.

Maybe next weekend will be different.  Don’t hold your breath.  (Really.  Don’t.  It’s bad for your health.)

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some late night reading I’ve been doing during those moments after I’ve carefully placed Grace in her co-sleeper, but before I am convinced she is actually asleep.

You’re likely familiar with Pocket, but if you’re not, Julie’s post is a good place to start. I’ve been saving posts and articles to read for later there, leaving with me with a more curated and manageable reading list than my overflowing Feedly, um, feed.  (Side note: Remember when Google Reader went extinct and I was this close to going into mourning?  Totally over it.)

Lest you think me completely vapid… a warning: most of this is very light reading (with the exception of the first article, perhaps).   I’m  fairly certain that’s all my brain can manage at the moment. 

Here’s what’s in my Pocket this week:

And now I have that “one hand in my pocket” song stuck in my head.  Oh, Alanis.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Taking a few photos of the now complete nursery to share later this week
  • Boston fitness professionals: check out this upcoming event
  • Why is it cold again?

What are you reading today?

Today: Last Minute Larry’s Valentine Gift Guide.

Just before Christmas, I threw together a Last Minute Larry gift guide, featuring presents found at the grocery store (and if you’re going that route, here are a few last minute Valentine’s Day deals you’ll love at Whole Foods Market).

I did a bit more advance planning this holiday, as Grace’s due date was 2/15.  I figured Nick and I might well be ringing in the sweetheart’s holiday in a labor and delivery room… but instead we’ll be at home with a very happy, teeny, tiny baby.

While I’ve had a gift stashed away for my husband for a few months, some of you may be scrambling (as I usually am), so I thought I’d share a few inexpensive, last minute ideas.

You can’t go wrong with flowers and chocolate

You just can’t.  I think a simple bunch of white tulips is perfect for any occasion. Including Tuesdays.  Which is to say, you don’t need an occasion to give someone (or yourself, obvi) flowers.  Same goes for chocolate.

Tea for one

I love sharing my favorite teas.  Pair a few tea bags with a cute mug (try Homegoods for inexpensive, fun mugs) and you’ll have your Valentine warmed up in no time… quoth the lady in Boston presently wearing a bathrobe over a sweater.

Spruce up something ordinary

I am forever trying to justify the extent of my washi tape collection by embellishing any and everything I can get my hands on.  I found these cute notebooks at Target and added friends’ initials to the covers.

Give something tasty

These gluten-free thumbprint cookies take less than a half hour to whip up and say, “These are sort of healthy… I must really love you.”

Hit the beauty aisle

To know me is to love me to be semi-concerned with my nail polish obsession.  At a few bucks a pop, however, a new polish or lip gloss makes a fun little gift for a friend.

Get a little messy crafty

I love making things, but hate cleaning up the ensuing mess.  And cleaning glitter off Clark’s snout days later.  If only Pinterest (click here for my Valentine-inspired board… side note: my account was hacked by some dude in France, and I created such an airtight new password that even I can’t figure it out… ) had a messiness rating for each project I pin.  Regardless, I love homemade gifts.

A few ideas that seem manageable:

Then again, the best gifts (hugs, kisses, and telling it like it is)… are free.  So maybe just skip the shopping, baking, and crafting altogether?  Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy Valentine’s Day!

Also On Tap for Today:

What is your go-to last minute gift?

Today: Last Minute Larry’s favorite grocery store gifts.

If you’re like me you are an incredible and wonderful creature have a tendency to leave things to the last minute.  For someone who loves to plan and make lists as long as my dog is cute, I have a real knack for procrastinating.  Fortunately, there is still time to pick up the perfect gift and a half gallon of milk at the same time.  Which reminds me: I forgot to buy milk this morning.

Last Minute Larry’s favorite grocery store gifts

DIY gift baskets

My late uncle lived in Florida and often sent boxes of citrus fruit up North this time of year– the perfect bit of sun and warmth for those of us hunkering down for another New England winter.  Plus, it’s always nice to have a few grapefruits and oranges on hand to balance out the ‘nog and cookies.

You could spend a fortune on next day shipping and order a gourmet gift online, or you could simply hit up the produce section of your local grocery store and pick up a few of your favorite fruits (perhaps include something new and different for a friend to try?) and wrap them in an inexpensive bowl or basket.

Fruit not your jam?  Try a printed recipe and dry ingredients, or spices and cooking utensils.  Package your favorite teas with honey, biscuits and a lovely mug.  There are pretty much no rules when it comes to making your own food-themed gift baskets.  Welp, maybe that’s not true.

A few rules to abide by, lest ye give your sister botulism for Christmas:

  1. Include no fish, raw meats, nor cheeses that require refrigeration
  2. Avoid anything that could go bad and/or stinky
  3. If it doesn’t sound delicious, don’t wrap it up and give it to someone (unless you’re trying to send a very un-Christmas-like message)

Toys

Our favorite Whole Foods Market (the one on River Street in Cambridge) has quite the selection of toys, books, apparel and other gift-worthy items in their Whole Body section.  Who doesn’t love a sock monkey?  Someone I don’t want to know, that’s who.

Chocolate

When in doubt, give the people what they want.  I am a big fan of local favorite, Mexcian style Taza Chocolate, but most markets offer a variety of interesting brands and flavors, all of which make a lovely gift or stocking stuffer.

Something unexpected

The big advantage to holiday shopping at the grocery store (besides the opportunity to buy — or forget to buy — milk) is the unexpected factor.  Keep an open mind while browsing the aisles, and just about anything may capture your imagination as gift-worthy.

My favorite “unexpected” items:

  • The above mushroom kit from Back to the Roots
  • Potted rosemary “trees” — they look like little Christmas trees and make a great gift for your favorite cook
  • Items from L.I.F.E. line fashion (sold at most Whole Foods Markets), a remarkable project of CTC International created to employ and empower mothers of children with special needs in Kenya
  • The Whole Planet calendar — 100% of proceeds go to the Whole Planet Foundation, and the calendar (which costs $4) includes over $40 worth of coupons #winwin

See you at the market, fellow Larrys.

P.S. For the record:  This is not a sponsored post.  I just happen to really, really like our grocery store. 

Also On Tap for Today:

 What is your favorite gift to give?

 

Today: My favorite travel apps.

I love the work that I do (and I know I am lucky to have such a fulfilling career).  I love connecting with likeminded folks around the country.  I like seeing new places, and understanding how things are done elsewhere.  I enjoy room service and small shampoos.  But I don’t love air travel.  It might be the claustrophobia (something I didn’t know I suffered from, until I realized all the places where I’ve either fainted or nearly fainted  in recent memory– namely: an overcrowded T car, the exam room at the vet, and an overstocked, overdecorated bookstore– are remarkably alike in their lack of an open escape route), but I just don’t like flying.

I spent most of last week in Michigan, and will be headed back there in a couple of weeks (my last trip before the baby arrives!).  As I search for flights, I can’t help but wish there was an app for teleportation.

While that’s in development (maybe?), I’ve got a few apps that make travel a bit more bearable.  Some help organize travel information, while others help pass the time between the beverage cart (ginger ale, no ice) and landing.

My favorite travel apps:

App in the Air: App in the Air is great for keeping track of travel plans, flight times, and other important details.  I tend to be a paper and pen person (I remember things so much better when I write them down, like… in my own handwriting), but I try not to lug my 16lb. day planner through security.  Having all my flight information in my phone gives me great peace of mind, and the tips from fellow travelers about various airports are helpful too. Though the app is free, you can make in app purchases to check in directly from your iPhone, etc.

Uber: Available in 50 cities and 20 countries (click here to see if they operate in your area), Uber provides on demand car service — perfect when you need to get to a meeting or event.  We often use UberX or Uber Taxi in Boston, especially when traveling to the airport at the crack of dawn (taxis can be a bit unreliable).  I wouldn’t say I travel to the most glamorous locales (did I tell you about the time I went to Texas and my hotel shared a driveway with a “gentleman’s” club?), so knowing that I can safely hail a cab from inside a building makes me (and those who would prefer I didn’t get kidnapped) happy.  All of your trips are logged in your Uber dashboard, making it easy to keep track of expenses.  I find that taking an UberX is cheaper than most cab rides, and the service on all Uber rides has been fantastic.  The app allows you to get a quote before you ride, gives you the option to split a fare, and all payment is processed through your smartphone.  If you sign up for an Uber account using this link, we both get $10.  #freemoney #sortof

Beautiful Belly Prenatal Yoga by Daily Burn: While I have approximately 9 million fitness apps on my phone and iPad, Beautiful Belly has been getting the most attention lately.  I used the app twice while in Michigan, in a little corner of my hotel room… and used the ottoman cushion as a prop.  Available exclusively for the iPad, this app includes full length first trimester yoga videos for free, with the option to purchase a series for second and third trimesters for $4.99 each (or $6.99 for the full program — a steal when you consider how expensive in studio classes can be).  All videos are led by Briohny Smyth and are specifically tailored for safe, healthy yoga practice while pregnant.  This app is the perfect complement to a regular prenatal yoga practice (since our bodies do weird things when we’re pregnant, I do recommend taking an actual class or two with a certified prenatal instructor before going off on your own).  I can’t get enough.

Infinite Storm:  Having lived in the city for years, I have trouble sleeping without a bit (or a lot) of noise.  At the same time, unfamiliar noise keeps me awake.  I’ve become dependent on Infinite Storm when traveling, whether for quick naps on the plane or for falling asleep in hotel rooms.  While you can pay for extra noise (that strikes me as funny), the free version has served me quite well.  I usually opt for “wind” (essentially white noise) or “storm classic” and set the timer to an hour.

Next Issue:  I have a magazine problem.  I subscribe to several, and never manage to read them all before the next issue arrives.  When I travel, I tend to grab a magazine at the news stand, only to end up leaving it in the seat back pocket by mistake.  Not only do subscriptions add up, those piles of paper tend to stack up too.  I recently discovered Next Issue and have happily cut down on clutter and subscription costs.  For $9.99 a month (the first month is free), you have access to over 100 magazines, both current and back issues.  The only disappointment I’ve encountered so far: Martha Stewart Living is not available (which is kind of a travesty).  Martha aside, the app has provided a great way to try new magazines and enjoy the digital editions of old favorites.  It’s available on the iPhone and iPad (reading is much more fun on the iPad).  You can learn more about Next Issue by visiting their website.

Hey, nerds.  How’s that teleportation app coming?

Also On Tap for Today:

What app makes travel more enjoyable for you?